10 accused in $20 million scheme to sell HIV drugs on the black market

10 accused in $20 million scheme to sell HIV drugs on the black market

Federal prosecutors have charged 10 people with orchestrating a $20 million scheme to “get rich” by buying and selling HIV medications on the black market that in some cases were purchased from low-income patients who risked their lives by selling them.

Some of the defendants in the case used the proceeds to buy luxury cars, New York City waterfront real estate, designer clothing, jewelry and gold, according to a statement issued Friday by Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New Jersey. York.

According to the 24-page indictment filed in federal district court in Manhattan, the scheme also involved bribing patients to use specific local pharmacies that were involved in conspiring and defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers of millions of dollars since 2017.

Mr Williams said the defendants in the case were “exploiting vulnerable members of society”. Many of the defendants face decades in prison on various charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, health care fraud and money laundering.

Three years ago, federal prosecutors said, Christy Corvalan, a Bronx pharmacy owner, sent a photo of black market HIV medications to the man who sold them to her.

“I would keep it, but I really can’t,” she wrote to the man, Boris Aminov, in a WhatsApp message. “I already have enough bad people to work with,” she added.

Prosecutors said Mr. Aminoff had actually sold her so many bottles of “degraded” HIV medications that she had altered to look more legitimate so she could resell them for a profit, Ms. Corvalan explained in her letter. She told Mr. Aminov that this particular bottle was of particularly poor quality.

The way prescription drugs are manufactured, handled and sold is carefully regulated in the United States, and prosecutors said those who buy drugs from black market dealers cannot be sure those drugs are held to the same standards.

Mr. Aminoff, Ms. Corvalan and three people who worked at Ms. Corvalan’s pharmacies were charged in connection with the scheme in March, but prosecutors on Friday added new charges and charged six additional people.

Mr. Aminoff, who lives in Brooklyn, and another man obtained HIV medications on the black market and sold the drugs to pharmacies owned by Ms. Corvalan and at least two pharmacies owned by people in Queens at prices far below market value, The Guardian reported. . Indictment. From there, the “potentially unsafe medications” were resold to pharmacies across the country or distributed to patients, prosecutors said.

Even though the drugs were purchased cheaply and illegally, prosecutors said, Ms. Corvalan’s pharmacies continually billed insurance companies for the full value of the drug, making profits of about $3,000 for each monthly prescription they filled.

Ms. Corvalan and some of her employees also bribed patients to use her pharmacies in order to submit fraudulent billings for those prescriptions, according to the indictment, and encouraged mostly low-income patients to forgo their prescribed HIV treatment by offering to buy their monthly medications. For a few hundred dollars.

One patient questioned the defendant, Antonio Baiano, about the price Mr. Baiano was offering to pay for a bottle of the HIV drug Biktarvy, according to prosecutors.

“Why would I risk my life for this few dollars,” the patient wrote in a text message.

The medications purchased from HIV-positive individuals were distributed to other patients while Ms. Corvalan and others received money paid by Medicaid and Medicare to fill prescriptions, according to the indictment.

Lawyers representing Mr. Aminoff, Ms. Corvalan and Mr. Baiano did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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